On March 13, 2020 — Friday the 13th — Trump’s declaration of a national emergency capped an extraordinary week of COVID-19’s escalation in the United States. Less than two weeks before, the media and entertainment industry debated if the annual NAB Show would cancel; today, much of the nation is in voluntary isolation — businesses have closed, sporting events shut down, and thousands trying to work remotely. Even for those following the virus from its outbreak in December 2019, the speed and impact are staggering.
The sudden reality of social distancing and working from home has companies rushing for work continuity solutions. In this time of crisis, however, peers across the media landscape are reaching out to colleagues, compatriots, and customers offering help and resources to remain productive, safe, and healthy in their practices.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the hurdles faced for media and entertainment companies trying to continue production and business, Signiant offered its Media Shuttle customers unlimited active users at no additional cost through May 31.
“As the virus changes work patterns across the industry, it is more vital than ever for media professionals to have the ability to work remotely and collaborate globally,” Signiant CEO Margaret Craig, wrote in a March 12, 2020 post, “My colleagues and I are proud to serve an industry that plays such an important role in major world events, whether by providing timely news to the public or offering the welcome distraction of entertainment.”
Signiant is not alone in this sentiment.
On March 16, Avid Technology, a major provider of creative video and audio solutions, began providing 90-day, no-charge licenses for their creative tools. Media enterprises, educational institutions, and students who have had to leave campuses or stay home can use these solutions, ensuring that necessary remote work and education routines are maintained. In an Avid blog post, CEO and president, Jeff Rosica wrote, “These are extraordinary times. The safety of each and every member of our community, including our employees, is job number one. We will do whatever we can to make your difficult decisions, like temporarily closing a facility, a whole lot easier.”
Adobe eliminated Creative Cloud and Document Cloud additional license charges for 60 days and is providing free, in-home access to Adobe Creative Cloud for students who no longer have access to their school’s licenses. In his announcement on Adobe’s site, CEO Shantanu Narayen emphasized, “on behalf of all Adobe employees, I want to let you know that our thoughts are with those who are affected,” before reiterating the need to, more than anything else, promote work environments and habits that allow everyone to stay safe and healthy.
In a similar overture, DejaSoft offers editors 50% off DejaEdit tools through March and April, ensuring that they can work easily and remotely, staying on top of their work without putting themselves or their families at risk. On March 20, Peter Fergusson, founder of Nemorin Film and Video in the UK, posted on LinkedIn his company would be giving away $5000 worth of production services “because we need to help each other through this.”
To alleviate hardship in the creative community during COVID-19, Netflix declared that it’s created a $100 million dollar fund. $15 million of that will be going “to third parties and nonprofits providing emergency relief to out-of-work crew and cast in the countries where [Netflix has] a large production base,” and an additional one million dollars each will be donated to the SAG-AFTRA COVID-19 Disaster Fund, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and the Actors Fund Emergency Assistance. The streaming giant will also split an additional million between The Actors’ Fund of Canada (AFC) and the nonprofit Fondation des Artistes (FDA).
As Avid and Adobe demonstrate, this phenomenon isn’t just intra-industry. Media and technology organizations are helping citizens adjust to the stressful new climate via discounts, resources, and basic kindnesses.
To counter the necessary closure of schools across the country, public media and educational organizations are providing resources for parents, teachers, and students. PBS is offering a slate of educational programming aimed to support students from prekindergarten to grade 12 via affiliate stations including California, Florida, Massachusetts, as well as web resources to match. This lineup of shows and supplements helps students keep up with English, math, science, and social studies. While known for its dedication to youth education, the speed PBS adapted to the current circumstances is impressive by any metric, especially during such chaotic times.
Simultaneously, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is offering virtual office hours for both teachers and students who are curious about using historic television and radio programs in educational settings.
“March 2020 has been our most trafficked month ever,” explains Casey Kaufman, associate director of WGBH MLA, project manager for AAPB. She continues: “In addition to educational websites including the AAPB as a resource, we’ve seen more and more public libraries recommend the AAPB on their websites as a resource that their communities can have access to, not just for students and teachers, but for lifelong learning.”
Internet providers, as well, are making it easier for media organizations to reach their audiences, and those audiences to stay connected, educated, informed, and entertained throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 13, Comcast indicated it would open its Xfinity network for free along with providing free unlimited data. Citing their commitment to connecting low-income families, they noted the need to continue offering resources, especially in the wake of school closings. Echoing this sentiment, Charter Spectrum has extended offers of free broadband service for the next two months to families with schoolchildren in states including Alabama, Maine, and Massachusetts, stating “As the country works collaboratively to contain this pandemic, broadband internet access will be increasingly essential to ensuring that people across the country are able to learn and work remotely, that businesses can continue to serve customers, and that Americans stay connected and engaged with family and friends.”
As the world becomes increasingly dependent on internet resources for media and education, gestures like this empower both those at home and those working in the industry to do what they can to help and thrive, despite current challenges.
Still more organizations are doing what they can to aid general relief, with League of Legends developer Riot Games donating 1.5 million dollars to help fight the virus in Los Angeles, distributing the money among the Mayor’s Fund, the Los Angeles Food Bank, and more.
In just a few short weeks, COVID-19 has shifted the entire media landscape with cancellations of major cultural events, closures of theatres and other entertainment epicenters, and a new emphasis on approaches to work. Each day seemingly brings new realities that force people around the world to readjust.
But there are also opportunities to see how individuals and organizations are leveraging their global reach and their increasing connectivity with customers and industry comrades to alleviate the stresses of COVID-19 and promote a healthy response. Extending resources, providing tools, and offering support, businesses from across this industry have stepped up to help one another. In such a frantic period, it’s a heartening change of pace.